Category Archive: Comic Review

Jan 05 2015

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean – Sarah Stewart Taylor & Ben Towle

This isn’t so much a recounting of Earhart’s attempt to fly across the Atlantic, so much as it is a tale about a young girl with dreams of being a newspaper reporter–or rather, dreams of being something other than the era’s standard for women which is a stay at home wife/mother. Earhart is an inspiration to this girl as she was to many, and this sweetly depressing tale told in few words, with simply and lovingly rendered art with blue coloring, does a fine job relaying feelings and hopes. I can’t really recommend this as a book to teach younger readers about Earhart directly, but you do get a sense of the times, the person, and, well, you get to read a good story. To add to some of the sadness of this tale, I knew little about Earhart until she was mentioned in a Trail of Cthulhu adventure I ran, which is why I wanted to know more and ordered it from a library, and it looks like I am the first in 4 years to ever have checked the book out.

Jan 04 2015

Skim – Mariko & Jillian Tamaki

The magic of libraries is that you can find a book serendipitously and use their catalogue to order other books by the same people. That’s how a got this one after reading This One Summer, which I liked more, probably due to more experience in writing and art, as well as a more specific focus. In any event, this was still a good read and nicely drawn. It is about an Asian (at least part), 16-year old girl, “Skim”, and takes place over a period of time in her Catholic school in Canada. I don’t want to give too much away, which means I can’t say much of anything, but let me just write that it deals with much of what anyone faces growing up: finding out who you are personally and sexually, the fleeting nature of friendship, death, love, family–really just about everything, and that is all the more impressive in such a short comic. 

Jan 03 2015

Happy! – Grant Morrison

Nick is an ex-cop, assassin, alcoholic, jerk. Into his world of non-stop swearing, comes the imaginary friend, a blue talking horse, named Happy, that seeks Nick’s help in rescuing a little girl from a killer Santa. The work tried too hard to be raw and too hard to be cute and too hard to be a cop drama and too hard to be a redemption tale, and for all that too hard work it just isn’t very interesting.

Jan 02 2015

The Annihilation event: Annihilation Book Two

It’s a new year and I’m keeping the resolution of reviewing the Annihilation event. Once again the collection starts slow as the heralds of the planet eater, Galactus, are being hunted. The hunters are kind of stupid, but it is neat to get the heralds under one title. Why does the Annihilation Wave seek Galactus and his brood? That might be unimportant compared to the fact that two cosmic beings are now free and also seeking him. And what does the death worshiper Thanos have to do with all this? (We still won’t know that even after this collection.)

The best parts come in the second half of this trade as we follow the Superskrull as he attempts to defend the remains of the Skrull empire (haven’t they suffered enough?) by taking the battle to the enemy. I did feel this part was too fast as a character seems to shift in mentality far to quickly and others are not given the background to really make them of interest. The other part, while a bit of a mess through too many characters, is great fun as we follow the Kree, Ronan The Accuser, in his attempt to clear his name (of a crime he didn’t commit, yes cliched but it really works) and dish out justice in true Kree fascism. 

Jan 01 2015

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics – edited by Chris Duffy

It’s been over 100 years since the start of the First World War, the war for civilization, the war to end all wars, the Great War, and I think it is important to keep the memory alive. This comic adaptation of (mostly) poetry based on World War I is a good start. Sadly, I did not enjoy this as much as I had hoped for, not that this is particularly a topic of enjoyment, but collected work such as these, despite attempts of unification, often fall short of unified feeling and look. I also have to say that I don’t care much for poetry (I know that makes me a bad person), so I was already starting at a loss. Still, this is a ok way to introduce people, most likely younger people, to the horrors and tragedies of the so-called great war, despite that it leaves off any real context for the war itself. 

 

Dec 29 2014

Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand as realized by Ramon K. Perez

I have no idea why this lost screenplay by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl was never actualize as a movie. Scratch that. Of course I do. The movie is about a man named Mac who for no expressible reason is send forth into the desert to complete a race of sorts wherein he is hunted and has to survive the natural elements and the very unnatural elements that a surreal desert world throws against him. Perhaps more is made clear in the screenplay itself but that is unlikely, as a beautiful blonde bride and a swarthy one eyed devil slash aristocrat (I guess that’s really the same thing) throw obstacles in his way. Much of what occurs makes little sense, and a lot of what occurs may not play well to modern sensibility, all adding to an understanding of why this movie could never– but really should, as in right now– be made. I enjoyed it, and would love to see it on the big screen, but realistically this may be as close as I will get. 

Dec 26 2014

Map of Days – Robert Hunter

This is a beautifully illustrated, short (but tall in page size) book about a boy who discovers a secret world hidden by his grandfather and the consequences that change the world. Wood-cut and arabesque images move the story along much more than the text does, yet together create an vivid effect that artists above writers will love. 

Dec 25 2014

Jesus Hates Zombies: Yea, Though I Walk… & A Jurassic Kinda Life – Stephen Lindsay

This first collection of Jesus Hates Zombies stories, featuring Lincoln Hates Werewolves, is a pretty frenetic, funny, and dark tale of, yes, Jesus fighting zombies, and I greatly enjoyed it. The problems are that Lindsay can’t seem to hold an artists and while I loved Daniel Thollin’s work, I didn’t care for the rest, and the second collection (wherein Jesus is fighting zombies throughout time) doesn’t have the same enjoyable feel. Perhaps it is difficult to keep a tale going that revolves around a very specific, jokey, theme. 

Dec 22 2014

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad – Nathan Hale

While this is the second in the series (and 3rd I read) it was actually the first one completed, which is perhaps not too odd because I found it the most focused and an enjoyable tale out of a number of enjoyable works. The series are historical works for younger readers told with humor and insight, ostensibly by the magically enhanced, about to be executed, spy Hale–who shares his name with the author. This issue is about the ironclad ships that fought in the American Civil War (which also rang the end of the old, wood ship era). All the history books I’ve read explained this event as two iron coated ships, the Monitor from the Union and the Virginia from the Confederacy, that fought for several hours to a standstill and went their separate ways. The end. Not only do I finally learn how half ass that account is, but I was riveted by the exciting and interesting events that surround the story. Well done Hale, suck it American history text books. 

Dec 21 2014

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy – Nathan Hale

Written and drawn by a man with the same name as the series’ title, America’s more famous and incompetent spy. The series, which I have first encountered HERE, begins with the execution of Hale and the magical event that leads him to narrating the series. This book recounts parts and people of the American Revolutionary War and the small–but significant–role Hale (and some others) played. I enjoy the art and writing of this story with its lighthearted tone to intrigue younger readers and get them involved in some amazing events in history (even if it is rather dismissive of the process of researching history). 

Dec 20 2014

The Annihilation event: Annihilation Book One

Yes, it has been many years since this Marvel comic cosmic event and I’m just getting to it, but on the plus side I’ll post a review of the titles every two weeks or so and you’ll learn all about my thoughts on it before spring (maybe). Also, I’ve already reviewed one of the useless post event books! *sigh* there’s no pleasing some ArmzRacers. On with the show.

This trade introduces us to the universe shaking event by reintroducing Drax (as in the Destroyer), the killing machine that was suppose to take down Thanos, the death worshiping machine. While I think the new Drax is stupid, I do like the idea of intergalactic criminals hold up in Alaska–do you think they can see Russia from there? (No one remembers that? *sigh*) Then we get to the part everyone cares about when an unknown forces of space traveling, hive minded, bugs come smashing into our universe and start annihilating everything in their path (thus the name of the books and event, right? Nope.) And one of those first things is the galactic police force the Nova corps.

I’m not going to pretend the writing was great here, but I truly enjoyed the overwhelm feeling of horror and despair of the Annihilation Wave. Literally billions upon billions of lives, entire civilizations and planets are removed from existence. And Earth’s heroes have no idea that it is even happening. That’s another great thing about this event: It happens to fringe elements of the Marvel universe so the changes–while typically never too dramatic or permanent–are completely wild! The deaths of superheroes, and supervillains, that occur are tragic and meaningful (well, maybe not in the Drax portion) in part because they often have no greater meaning to the Marvel universe and it is believable that they won’t simply be undone in a few months. (Ok, so some of it gets undone almost right away.) While I’m not familiar with many of the characters that pop up in this series, something that usually aggravates me, they are not presented in a way that you need to know who they are or that the reader isn’t filled in to what you need to know–it’s the whole: this one is for the fan boys, that makes cameos and inclusion of non-mainstream characters annoying. I’m enjoying this. 

Dec 19 2014

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party – Nathan Hale

There is definitely good work here in this fun comic designed to teach kids about history and get them interested in learning. The art is cute and realistic enough to show what is needed and there is plenty of detailed factual information to support the comic. I like the work enough to have my local library hunt down other titles in this series (the author shares the name of a famous, heroic, American and the stories (or at least this one) are done by having Hale, at the gallows, tell the (future) events to his executioners), my trouble–again, at least with this one–is that this tale is filled with tragedy, yet, since its designed for younger readers, there are lots of jokes and flippant remarks. It is very difficult to interject lightheartedness in the face of horror and, unfortunately, I don’t think the balance succeeds fully. I was also rather angry, in a personal way, that Hale jokes that it was a team of babies that did the research for the work. If this is a work for young people, do you really feel it is a good idea to imply that research can be done by a bunch of babies?!

Dec 18 2014

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant – Tony Cliff

Very cute idea about a super-cool heroine adventurer who meets up with a rather low-key Janissary (yes, that should hint at the time period) and together they get into all kinds of trouble. The art and coloring were quite nice, but I have to wonder if I’m missing something or many somethings. The intro pages about Delilah made her a really awesome female character and I would like to read those stories, but I’m pretty sure they don’t exists. Part of the trouble with this book is I feel lost in the pacing. Scenes are drawn out, too quick, or reliant on backstory that we don’t have, and the shift in POV throws me (is this Selim, the Turk’s, story? I don’t know.). Chalk this up to a noble effort that failed due to story structure. Honestly, I keep seeing these stories with all the needed elements that just aren’t being put together properly. 

Dec 17 2014

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb – Nathan Fetter-Vorm

If I was a high school who had to write a report on the creation of the atomic bomb, the people involved, the events surrounded it, and the repercussions,  I would be very happy to have this book at the quick. It does a good job presenting the information in relatively basic terms in fair and broad strokes. I did feel that this isn’t so much a comic as, exactly as advertised, a summary backed by illustrations, but I would rather have a comic. 

Dec 16 2014

Battling Boy – Paul Pope

It seems I’m never super-thrilled with Pope’s work and the same holds true for this attempt to start a series about a kid who is sent as part of a coming of age ceremony to fight evil on a plant similar to, but not quite, our own. The art is interesting although Pope’s style isn’t for everyone and sometimes just leaves me cold–although lots of colorful monsters and battles is a pretty good selling point. The trouble is that the comic is reliant on tropes and does very little to breath life or originality into the characters/situations (and don’t tell me that having t-shirts that give magical powers based on the animal pictured on the shirt is innovative because that’s Ben 10 without the watch!). If you put another issue in front of me I’d read it, but as for now I can’t explain the motivations behind most of the characters. 

Dec 14 2014

Endless Wartime – Warren Ellis

WHY?! do I keep thinking that I might like an Ellis comic since I haven’t in forever. One of the great heroes of the super hero comic writing world produces a very boring tale of the Avengers, the super hero team, as they go to fight some leftover monsters of WWII that have been weaponized for the modern world. Seriously, it takes forever to do a poor job of introducing the characters, the plot is nothing particularly interesting, and the action is lame at best. Another disappointment not worth writing more about. 

Dec 13 2014

Trotsky: A Graphic Biography – Rick Geary

Geary presents a graphic biography on one of the founders of the Soviet Union. From his origins as a Jewish, farmer’s son, Lev Davidovich Bronstein, to the amazing propagandist and organizer for the first communist state, Leon Trotsky, Geary does a nice job presenting how he developed and changed, becoming one of the key people that shaped the 20th century. I have to admit, I’m not positive why Geary picked Trotsky to write about; while the work was interesting and well done, I’m not sure I really care that much and find that I enjoy learning about murders–which has been another creative focus of Geary’s work–much more. 

Dec 12 2014

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller – Joseph Lambert

Am I the only person on the planet who never saw The Miracle Worker (I don’t even know if that’s the actual name)? I really was impressed with the story that doesn’t simply focus on the amazing person of the young Keller, but the likewise impressive teacher, Sullivan, who had quite the hard life. Nicely drawn and colored, Lambert does some interesting work with visuals to attempt to represent how the blind and deaf Keller may have mentally pieced together her world (and yes, I know any attempt to use visuals to show how a blind person might “see” the world seems very off) thanks to her partially blind–and very angry–teacher. A well told, amazing tale that doesn’t hold back on controversy. 

Dec 10 2014

Dawn of the Bunny Suicides – Andrew Riley

I was introduced to this series some years ago and then, like now, I find the simple cartoons about bunnies that kill themselves in various ways cute (yes, that does sound strange), especially the ones that involve pop culture references. However, I never find them funny enough to actually do more than smirk. 

Dec 09 2014

War of Kings: Road to War of Kings

Leave it to Marvel comics to turn a confused mess like the fall out from the Skrull invasion, the Shi’ar coup, and a lot of random long lost relatives coming into existence and turn it into an even bigger mess. The Inhumans leave Earth (again) and join the Kree Empire while the Shi’ar are controled by an insane former X-Man and all the various empires are set to destroy each other. Forget it. 

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